Local soccer player Anna Swanson, a junior at Santa Fe Prep, has taken a big step forward in her goal to becoming a professional player.
Swanson, 16, was recently tabbed the second member of New Mexico United’s prestigious High-Performance Program for youth soccer players.
The free program is for both male and female players ages 12 to 17, with the goal of providing free supplemental instruction and competitive opportunities for the state’s top talent. Cleveland High School standout Gabe Legendre was the first selected.
Because of her travel schedule, Swanson was able to attend just one of the tryout training sessions this summer. But that was enough to attract the eye of United’s brain trust.
“When you go to watch her play, she is a very dynamic player,” United head coach Troy Lesesne said. “She is the type of player that is excellent in 1-v-1 situations. She knows where the goal is, and how to create goals for herself and for her teammates. You see her work ethic and her ability to be relentless in the way that she defends as well. She is very difficult to bypass.”
That work ethic is one of the characteristics that Swanson said she prides herself on.
“I work really hard,” she said. “That is something that is definitely a huge attribute in the success that I’ve had. These past couple of years have been really good for me, gaining success and looking forward to playing at the college level. The past couple of years have really shown me that I really want to pursue this for the rest of my life.”
Swanson began playing when she was about four, joining the Northern New Mexico Soccer Club, and then remaining with the club when it merged with the Rio Rapids.
She also has been a high school star beginning in eighth grade at Santa Fe Prep and was part of a corps that led the Blue Griffins on several deep playoffs runs.
But, last year, she stopped playing high school soccer. Swanson has joined the Pateadores Club, based in Southern California, but with a New Mexico chapter.
Locally, it is run by former University of New Mexico women’s head coach Kit Vela and her husband, Jorgé Vela. Swanson, while training with a boys 2003 (birth year) team, does her playing with the primary team out in California.
So, getting a chance to train with United will be a big boon to her development and will fill a gap that currently exists in her regimen.
“I was definitely super excited,” Swanson said. “It was something I was really enthusiastic about. I do really love the club and this is a great way to be involved. It’s something I want to be when I get older … a professional soccer player.”
Although she’s not sure how often the program will have training sessions, Swanson said it has already paid dividends.
“When I trained with them and did the workout, the intensity was off the charts,” she said. “They were really going at it the entire practice. Every single movement and possession was with a purpose. It was really awesome to see, and gave me great insight into what a professional soccer practice is like and what it means to be a professional soccer player. It was so cool.”